Anyone done this in Cape Town?

I live in Plumstead, which is quite a tough place to garden.

Anyone that you know of tried to plant a Miyawaki forest in Cape Town? I'm tempted to give it a shot, but we don't have much space.

Gosh, it's quite onerous posting on your blog!

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Feb 19, 2021
Let's just do it ?
by: Caroline

Dear Plumsteader !

The reason I wrote about the Miyawaki method, was the SPEED which it takes to establish, namely ten years. I think it gives hope. We'd all like to see a change in our lifetimes, but unfortunately the natural forest recovery process takes one to three hundred years according to Sharma. He is talking about other areas of the world, predominantly in India. Some tropical, some very dry and some very wet. I did an online forest planting project management course with Sharma. I went to UN startup workshops to try and raise funds, I've been putting the idea out there for so long.

My mom has done a lot of planting in the forest and participated in an indigenous tree nursery. From her observations, my one concern is that the Miyawaki method provides a way too nutrient rich environment. Our trees are adapted to low nutrient levels in our famously ancient leached soils at the Cape. However. For reasons too complex to go into here, the Miyawaki method may also succeed wonderfully at the Cape.

The stumbling block to doing a project on my own so that I could find out, was the dense planting and money needed for the work and the huge number of trees needed. So I started a tree nursery in my backyard. I offered my trees for years, hoping to find someone who had the land to build the forest. Now eventually I have two takers, but its not for dense planted mini forests, its for verges. There just isn't enough depth on a verge to get the critical mass for a really functional forest ecosystem.

I could write a book justifying why we need forests. Most of my theory comes from reading. In a nutshell, the Cape was not all fynbos in the past. It was a vegetation patchwork of open and canopied areas. The only theory that is my own is that I believe the ancient forests of the Cape along the rivers, and on the mountains, actually supported the fynbos and were a vital ingredient of its health.

This support of other types of vegetation by tiny forests or mini forest pockets can be translated to mixing forest and other food growing useful vegetation. I learned in permaculture (PDC) that the more edge (between vegetation types) that you have, the more productive the whole system is. Agroforestry that mixes trees and other crop plants is extremely productive when well designed.

In history agroforestry is also a stayer. Growing annual crops eventually leads to desertification in marginal zones like the Cape. But some man made food forests in the Sahara have lasted for hundreds of years. All around the world the cultures which mixed trees and smaller food plants kept their soil and ecology healthy. If you want to grow MORE FOOD and PERMANENTLY, a mixed system like this is the answer.

Then why oh why is conventional farming, wide spacing, weeding and so on so absolutely dominant in farming ? It is all about having a good product. The size of the vegetable and the tons of one vegetable off an acre are the measure of success.

In a close planted forest like garden, the individual vegetable may be smaller than a vegetable planted in an open field surrounded by lots of space and bare soil. However, from the whole system, the yield of the close planted agroforest polyculture is higher. The problem is that harvesting is easier to mechanize in a flat open field. The farmers have set the tone, and most people apply the same principles in their private vegetable gardens.

I can't cite here, this is based on four years of reading from so many sources I can't remember them individually. But if you want some proofs and voices which back mine, just ask.

So all of this said. I've waited a long long time for someone else who wanted to build a mini forest. I would gladly help you with the project. I will not charge you for my knowledge and time. I just want to do it. I can get you access to seed collecting permits and help you grow the trees. I am sourcing free organic material anyway, for other reasons. I can help you with that. In three years or less you should be ready to build the Miyawaki style forest. it will be the first in South Africa. It may start a revolution, a movement, or a business. Who knows.

Kindest regards

Feb 18, 2021
by: Caroline

Dear Plumsteader

I apologize about the difficulty of posting on my blog. Thank you for your question. I do not know of anyone who has applied the method in Cape Town. You could be the first to try. Shubhendu Sharma applies the Miyawaki method on many projects. He says that ten by ten meters is enough. He built his first forest in his back garden. Ten by ten meters will require 500 saplings.

Please let me know if you decide to try it.


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